Going on fourth is our look at the week ahead, written on the 4th day of each week.
As we’re getting into the heart of conference play, the number of games is getting smaller, but their importance is getting much bigger. But this week seems more about the fight in the middle of the conference, rather than the battle for the conference crown.
1) Was last week a blip on the radar, or signs of bigger trouble for UT Martin
The Skyhawks have made a lot of noise this year, and have two great wins under their belt. But last weekend wasn’t their greatest performance, at least offensively. The Skyhawks kept the ball mostly on the ground, and put up 17 points in the first half, before being shut out in the second. They held Southeast Missouri to just seven points, but that speaks as much about the Redhawks offense as it does the Skyhawks defense.
Is head coach Jason Simpson‘s unwillingness to name starting quarterback causing the team to play too conservatively? I understand wanting to eliminate turnovers, but if you do so at the risk of becoming too one-dimensional, or relying only on the “safe” underneath throws, you may be doing more damage than good long term. Holding Jacksonville State to 17 points will be a challenge, and their defense is a step up from SEMO’s as well.
2) Murray State is going for their first 2-0 start in conference play in more than a decade.
Sure, they’re not beating the conference’s elite just yet, but Murray State hasn’t gotten off to a 2-0 conference start since 1998. They host Tennessee Tech this weekend, a team who has struggled on offense at times throughout the year so far, which is good news for the Racers defense, which has just struggled. A 2-0 start probably doesn’t necessarily make Murray State a contender, but it’s a great step up for a team that hasn’t won the conference since 2002.
3) Are we underselling Tennessee Tech?
Of course, a win over the Golden Eagles isn’t guaranteed. TTU is 3-2 overall, 2-1 against FCS competition, with wins over Hampton and Indiana State. They’ve found ways to win, even when they didn’t necessarily look like the better team. Their defense has forced turnovers, and they’ve taken advantage of opponents mistakes. Quarterback Darian Stone doesn’t seem to have that “big throw” ability, but does damage with his legs. I’m not sold on the Golden Eagles, but we probably shouldn’t write off a .500-plus team at this point.
4) Does SEMO or Austin Peay get a win first?
After this week at Tennessee State, the Redhawks get Murray State at home. They also have a non-Division I team on their schedule next month. Austin Peay’s conference schedule is front-heavy, with all the OVC heavyweight first, including a trip to Eastern Kentucky Saturday, before SEMO and TTU in their final two weeks. The Redhawks will almost certainly have a win when they meet in November. Will the Governors? I’m not sure.